RARE FIRST EDITION OF ALL FOUR PARTS OF ONE OF MENGER’S LIST OF SEVEN MATHEMATICAL-ECONOMIC READING RECOMMENDATIONS

Die Theorie der Nationalwirthschaft nach einem neuen Plane und nach mehrern eigenen Ansichten dargestellt …

Leipzig, Breitkopf & Härtel, 1815.

Four parts in one vol., 4to, pp. [2], 306; [307]–330; viii, [331]–[442]; [iv], [443]–524; with a folding engraved plate to the first part; spotting to the title of the first part, with some other light offsetting throughout; still a very good copy in contemporary half calf over marbled boards, a little rubbed, gilt lettering-piece to spine.

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First edition of all four parts of this very rare early work of mathematical economics. In a letter to Léon Walras of 28 June 1883, Carl Menger, after thanking Walras for sending him a copy of Théorie mathématique de la richesse sociale, encloses a select list of his own making of seven key mathematical-economic texts; this work is on that list. Die Theorie der Nationalwirthschaft, here with its three supplements, is Buquoy’s major work. Written at a time of great industrial, financial and economic change, it reflects, and benefits from, the wealth of material available to Buquoy as a non-specialist economic thinker.

In the Theorie, Buquoy reveals himself a follower of Adam Smith, but he believes free trade to be unsuited to countries in unfavourable geographical situations, and considers the securing of true prosperity to be more likely in the proper regulation of production and consumption. The first (‘technical’) part deals with the source of wealth, the second (‘political’) part with its management. For Buquoy, the sources of wealth are: a) the extraction of raw products (agriculture, forestry, mining, fishery), b) the refining of such products by technology, and c) trade. The political part, subdivided into four sections, defines preliminary economic concepts, and discusses mercantilism, physiocracy and Smith’s theories. It is in the second supplement, published in 1817, that algebraic formulae are explicitly used and that Buquoy develops a formula for ‘natural price’, which eclipses the simple price formulae of Verri and Frisi.

R. M. Robertson writes: ‘Most of von Buquoy’s works are on what he calls the “technical” part of political economy. The word “technical” is an apt one, for he discusses the law of physics applicable to the proper loading and towing of wagons … Even his brief section on commerce deals largely with such things as measures, weights, tariff rate-making, and the like. In his section on agricultural techniques, however, there is a brief passage in which he treats the problem of maximization. This analysis is so strikingly modern that it deserves a detailed report’. Robertson then describes the relevant mathematical argument, adding: ‘Except for the fact that he is not considering total revenue and total cost as a function of output but rather as a function of depth of plowing … this is the marginal-cost-equals-marginal-revenue statement of the problem of maximization, with both the necessary and sufficient conditions given’ (‘Mathematical economics before Cournot’, Journal of Political Economy LVII (1949), p. 527).

Buquoy’s work had a direct influence on Rau, who praised his use of mathematics in the Handbuch der Nationalwirthschaftslehre (1820), and, possibly, on Goethe; they had met in Carlsbad in 1807 and Goethe had a copy of the present work in his library.

Humpert 867; Jevons, p. 278; Kress S.6144; Menger, col. 73; not in Goldsmiths’. For the letter from Menger, see Walras Correspondence, no. 566; on Buquoy, see the entry in Lexikon der ökonomischen Werke (Düsseldorf, Verlag Wirtschaft und Finanzen, 2002). Apart from the complete copy at Harvard (Kress collection), in the USA, OCLC adds the following: the first three parts at Syracuse, the first two parts at Columbia, and the first part only at Berkeley and Chicago; COPAC does not locate any institutional UK holdings.

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